In Accordance with the Scriptures

Most importantly, Isaiah provides an important description of the "suffering servant," a model taken up especially by Luke in his gospel. The following extended text indicates how Isaiah's vision of the servant includes the idea that God will reward him by exalting him after he has lived out his life.

See, my servant shall prosper;
he shall be exalted and lifted up,
and shall be very high.
Just as there were many who were astonished at him
 -- so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,
and his form beyond that of mortals—
so he shall startle many nations....

But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.....

Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors
. (Isaiah 52:13-15, 53:5-6, 11-12)

What Isaiah gives us is an extended "job description" of the Messiah, though it is not so specific as to suggest to us what the Nicene Creed avers, namely that Jesus' rising from the dead after three days was in accordance with the scriptures. For that reference, we are probably best served by Jesus' own reference to the "sign of Jonah" in Matthew 12:39-40.

"An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet. Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights, so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights."

The critic will likely point out that since the gospels were composed after the events of the gospel, it was simple enough for Matthew to include this detail whether or not Jesus ever actually spoke it. Since that point is unknowable—and I for one am not bothered by the idea that the evangelists take literary license in depicting Jesus (a necessary assumption, I think, given the different portrayals)—it is more important to land on the point that the earliest Christians saw the whole event of the resurrection in the light of their wrestling with what the Old Testament suggested about the Messiah. What they landed on was something like "he was not what we were expecting, but what has happened here has changed our lives."

The bottom line: the events of Jesus' life, including his death and resurrection, were not a point-by-point enactment of old predictions about the Messiah. However, when the earliest Christians came to understand Jesus' life over time, they looked back on their formative scriptures and saw that what had happened was the fulfillment of their deepest hopes, the ones that they had previously known only inchoately.

12/2/2022 9:05:39 PM
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  • Tim Muldoon
    About Tim Muldoon
    Tim Muldoon holds a Ph.D. in Catholic systematic theology and is an award-winning author and Catholic theologian of the new evangelization.